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Explore the Massif Central with a Cicerone guidebook

Cover of The Grand Traverse of the Massif Central
19 Jan 2010
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
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The Grand Traverse of the Massif Central

by mountain bike, road bike or on foot

by Alan Castle
Book published by Cicerone Press

A guidebook to mountain biking, cycling or walking the 700km GTMC, Grande Traversée du Massif Central, in southern France, from Clermont-Ferrand in the Auvergne to Montpellier and Sête on the Mediterranean. The long-distance route is described in stages for walkers, and mountain bikers, with on road alternatives for road cyclists.

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Cover: Paperback - PVC
Size: 17.2 x 11.6 x 1.2cm
Weight: 220g

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Mountain Biking – This guidebook divides the Grand Traverse of the Massif Central (GTMC) into 17 stages, each of which the average mountain biker should accomplish in a day. Those who wish to sample only a section of the GTMC can do so by making use of the railway stations en route.

Road Cycling – A traverse of the Massif Central, following the line of the GTMC very approximately, can also be made by road cyclists. This visits all the major places through which the GTMC passes, but keeps to roads – for the most part relatively quiet ones. Such a road route would probably take the average cyclist somewhere between 8 and 12 days.

Walking – The Grand Traverse of the Massif Central not only makes an excellent off-road mountain bike trail, but as such a high percentage of it is off-road, and much of that along numerous GR Trails, it also provides a first-rate long-distance walking route across the region.

The walking is generally straightforward, suitable for most reasonably fit people. A traverse of the full route on foot would typically take from 27 to 32 days. Alternatively, the railway network easily allows one-, two- or three-week walking holidays to be planned.

  • Activities
    road cycling, mountainbiking, backpacking
  • Seasons
    spring and autumn recommended; summer can be very hot and the route could be very hazardous in winter conditions
  • Centres
    Clermon-Ferrand, Saint-Etienne, Aurillac, Nimes, Montpellier
  • Difficulty
    one of the most challenging mountain bike routes in France, but technical sections can be avoided by pushing a short distance or taking the on-road option
  • Must See
    Auvergne; Puy de Sancy; Margeride; Mont Mouchet; Mont Lozère; Cévennes; Tarn Gorges; Mont Aigoual, Trèvezel Gorges

October 2013

Thanks to Elizabeth Dyson for the following updates:

The gîte d'étape at Chaumiane (Stage 3) is very basic and there is no food
available, although it does have gas rings (bring your own matches).  There is
also no shop in the nearby village of Compains.

In the woods just past Le Sauvage (Stage 7) some of the signs are missing
on crucial turnings.  But with very careful attention to the Chamina map it is
possible to navigate through. At the end of the stage at Le Giraldes there
is a chambre d'hôtes as well as a gîte d'étape. The chambre d'hôtes was reported to be a
lovely place to stay, with dinner provided by the hosts.

Bagnols-les-Bains (Stage 8) has a shop and a boulangerie.

Camprieu (Stage 12) has a good small supermarket.

If you have run out of supplies on Stage 14, then it is just a short detour
to Le Caylar where there are shops (including a supermarket), boulangeries,
hotels, etc.

On Stage 17 you are technically not allowed to cycle alongside the canal
from Palavas-les-Flots to Frontignan.  However, most people seem to ignore this and it is rare for cyclists to be challenged.


A Long Distance Mountain Bike Trail
A GTMC for Road Cyclists
Walking the GTMC
Climate – When to Go
Supported or Unsupported
Travelling to and from the Region
Food and Water
Public Holidays and Time
Using this Guidebook
Trail Guide
Stage 1 Clermont-Ferrand to Laschamp
Stage 2 Laschamp to Murol
Stage 3 Murol to La Godivelle
Stage 4 La Godivelle to Allanche
Stage 5 Allanche to Saint-Flour
Stage 6 Saint-Flour to Paulhac-en-Margeride
Stage 7 Paulhac-en-Margeride to Le Giraldès
Stage 8 Le Giraldès to Bagnols-les-Bains
Stage 9 Bagnols-les-Bains to Le Pont-de-Montvert
Stage 10 Le Pont-de-Montvert to Sainte-Énimie
Stage 11 Sainte-Énimie to Cabrillac
Stage 12 Cabrillac to Dourbies
Stage 13 Dourbies to La Couvertoirade
Stage 14 La Couvertoirade to La Vacquerie et St-Martin-de-Castries
Stage 15 La Vacquerie et St-Martin-de-Castries to Saint-Jean-de-Fos
Stage 16 Saint-Jean-de-Fos to Montpellier
Stage 17 Montpellier to Sète
Appendix A Stage Maps for the Road Bike Alternative
Appendix B Route Summary Table
Appendix C Budget Accommodation along the GTMC
Appendix D Other Long Distance Trails along the GTMC
Appendix E Further Reading
Appendix F Useful Contacts
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